Sunday, June 21, 2009

Documentary causes Dole to go Bananas

The Los Angeles Film Festival is currently in full swing, but Swedish filmmaker Fredrik Gertten's film Bananas! finds itself battling a major controversy even before it premiers. Just a few days ago a judge declared Gertten's main character, Los Angeles attorney Juan J. Dominguez, a fraud for recruiting plaintiffs to lie. The accusation follows shortly after Dominguez won a $1.5 million settlement for the purported workers of Dole.

Bananas! is a feature length documentary that follows Nicaraguan workers who claim pesticides used on Dole banana plantations in the 1970s made them sterile. The judge presiding over the case says Dominguez recruited men to pretend they had been banana workers and to make false allegations against Dole. These men were even given fake work histories and told what it would have been like to work on a plantation at that time.

Now, because of these accusations, Dole representatives want Gertten to reflect the new information in his already completed documentary or face a defamation lawsuit. As you can assume, the Swedish filmmaker rejects such demands based on free speech. "I haven't seen any fraud. If I saw it, I would publish it," he said. "This film is valid. I hope Dole will understand it is a legitimate piece of work. ... I believe in freedom of speech and telling the story as I saw it."

For its part, the LA Film Festival has pulled the documentary from its prize categories and instead are using it to open a discussion about the perils of wrapping up production before a story has reached its conclusion. For more on the story, jump to the Associated Press for a detailed breakdown of the situation.

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